Intersection of Life and Faith

Battling the Devil's Drug

  • Julie Garmon Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2007 1 Mar
  • COMMENTS
Battling the Devil's Drug

Danae Betzer is fighting a battle. But unlike a soldier deployed to a distant country, she confronts the enemy every day in her own backyard. And it's a foe as enticing as it is deadly: the drug crystal methamphetamine.

After ten years as a user, Danae was at the end of her rope. She'd tried acupuncture, meditation, three rehabs, and finally moved alone to the Mojave Desert to break her habit. Nothing worked until her world collapsed. Miraculously, she now has been clean for nine years.

Called "the devil's drug," "crystal meth," or "ice," this drug shatters lives. Often, it moves on to wipe out families, and even communities, through divorce, child abuse, job loss, STDS, schizophrenia, homelessness, and hopelessness. Last year, respected evangelical pastor Ted Haggard resigned from his ministry posts after it was revealed that he lived a secret life that included crystal meth.

The drug's lure is intense. In one study, laboratory animals chose to press a lever to release crystal methamphetamine rather than eat. In August of 1998, 29-year-old Danae Betzer had plunged into that same desperation. At 2:00 A.M., she and her boyfriend went dumpster diving like mongrel dogs.

"Crystal meth destroys life. Very few can try it once and put it down." ??"Blenda Sing

"I was knee-deep in trash, looking for something to hock," Danae says. "I figured ten bucks would solve my problem. I needed a fix."

Almost everything she owned had been pawned or repossessed. Danae had reached the bitter dregs of addiction.

The day after the dumpster episode, Danae's boyfriend got busted for dealing. No food, no electricity, no phone, and no man. For almost two weeks, Danae binged on meth. She injected it during the day, and at night collapsed on her bare mattress unable to sleep. She begged God to help her out of her madness, tracing Psalm 88:10 in shaky blue ink. "Wilt Thou perform wonders for the dead?" Danae felt dead already.

Danae knew she had three options: jail, death, or get help. A girlfriend recommended Set Free, a Christian rehab center in Riverside, California, with a decent success rate. On Sept. 14, 1998, trembling, filthy, and wearing hand-me-down clothes, she dialed the rehab's number.

"Set Free, this is Elder Kenny."

"I'm Danae. I'm addicted to ice. What can you offer me?"

"A whole lot of love. You're gonna make it. Do your best to get here three days sober. "

"Don't know if I can."

"Yes, you can. God loves you."

"I don't have any money."

"It's free. We don't turn anybody away."

Danae borrowed money for the three-hour Greyhound bus ride and then spent the next 70 hours sobering up. "I'll never forget that bus ride," she recalls. "I itched all over. Even my teeth."

Every moment of the trip, Danae considered chucking her idea of trying to quit. Taunting thoughts never left her.

Loser.

You'll never make it.

"I hated ice. But I hated myself even more."

Keys for Breaking Free

Danae isn't alone. An article in the January 17, 2006, USA Today reported that crystal meth now tops all other drugs for ER visits. Blenda Sing, an addictions counselor for 20 years, says, "Ice addiction crosses all gender, race, and ages and is growing like wildfire. Crystal meth addiction is the fastest-growing, most powerful addiction I've seen. Alcohol can take years to trigger addiction. Ice destroys life. Fast. Very few can try crystal meth once or twice and put it down."

Sing pinpoints two keys necessary to break the cycle of addiction and recover. First, daily surrender to God by acknowledging this truth: "I am powerless over ____." And second, a strong support system. Addictions can't be beaten alone. Those breaking free must surround themselves with others living substance-free lives. (This includes alcohol, marijuana, nicotine, and prescription painkillers.)

Danae Betzer entered Set Free on September 17, 1998, and happened upon those same two principles. She was welcomed with plenty of hugs, a stack of clean clothes, a shower, and a hot meal. After dinner, she left for a women's ranch in Cabazon, California. For the next 30 days, Danae re-learned how to live.

Crystal meth erases basic life and job skills, the importance of proper nutrition, self-esteem, and good friends. Brain damage can be so severe that, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, it can be similar to that caused by Alzheimer's disease, stroke, and epilepsy.

Day-by-day, Danae found strength and encouragement through God and His messengers. "Every morning, I read Proverbs with other women fighting the same addiction demons. I began eating right and sleeping again. Good thoughts soaked in and replaced crazy lies I believed. "

Freedom Fighters

After "getting her mind back," Danae joined a Set Free-connected church in Riverside, California, and began the work phase. Those in this second phase find jobs and return $75 per week to the Set Free facility for gas, food, and housing.

Kenny, the man who answered Danae's initial phone call to Set Free, has been clean for 12 years. Danae remembers her first impression of him. "When I looked into his brown eyes, I felt no condemnation. He'd walked the same path."

Often, romantic relationships formed in rehab end in disaster. Not this time. When Danae met Kenny, he'd been clean for five years. Desiring to do things the right way, they followed the strict dating rules of the Set Free discipleship program—no dates for three months, and then they were chaperoned.

The couple married on May 8, 1999. Kenny went on to become an ordained minister—to addicts and alcoholics.

In 2001, the couple moved to Atlanta, Georgia. In an inner-city neighborhood, surrounded by drugs, gangs, and prostitution, they began another Set Free ministry. Kenny and Danae rented and gutted a storefront shop in a strip mall and began feeding, loving, and pointing out the pathway of hope.

Kenny says, "Set Free caters to the 'least and the last,' those who don't fit in churches, those who are overlooked in the streets, the homeless. But we've also had professional, white-collar folks come for help. The key is daily surrendering our will to God, and to stay closely involved with others wanting sobriety. For those who remain united with others serious about recovery, the success rate is about 85 percent. That includes ice addiction."

The Betzers have launched two new facilities in Georgia—a men's and a women's. They are bright new additions to existing Set Free programs in Colorado, South Carolina, Washington, Missouri, and California.

Kenny and Danae are shaking their fists at the devil and his drug. But they're doing so much more. The Betzers are on the frontlines, welcoming in the wounded and weary, offering food, hope, and a new way of life—the same way they were loved back to wholeness.

The devil's drug still packs a mean wallop. But now there's a formidable foe—recovering addicts who teach other addicts how to fight.

And they're winning.

Julie West Garmon is a writer who lives in Monroe, Georgia. Winning the Addiction Battle

Following are a list of organizations and resources that can provide help and hope in the war against crystal meth and other addictions:

Set Free:

The network of evangelical churches and rehab centers described in the main article, www.setfreerocks.com.

Crystal Meth Anonymous:

A 12-step fellowship for those in recovery from addiction to crystal methamphetamine, www.crystalmeth.org.

U-Turn for Christ:

A discipleship ranch dedicated to helping men, women, and teens caught up in drug and alcohol abuse, www.uturnforChrist.com.

Intervention Resources:

The website for the A&E cable channel series Intervention, which contains links to treatment centers, therapists, and interventionists, www.aetv.com/intervention.

Dunklin Memorial Camp:

A Christian rehab facility for men suffering from drug and alcohol addiction, www.dunklin.org.

Copyright © 2007 by the author or Christianity Today International/Today's Christian magazine.
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